Experts: Bag Tax Spreads Disease, Fills Hospitals
by Mary Smart
Senator Mike Gabbard and the DLNR today announced plans to re-introduce a bill to impose a ten-cent per bag plastic and paper bag fee at check-out.
The alternative to paper and plastic bags provided at check-out are reusable cloth bags. It surely costs a lot more and uses more resources to manufacture those cloth bags than the paper and plastic bags.
Reusable bags have been found to carry norovirus and e-coli. NBC news in May, reported several children fell ill from an infected reusable bag. When reusable bags are brought from private residences and placed in the cart and on the check-out counter, there is an opportunity to spread disease that can send people to the hospital and even cause death. Citing Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, NBC reports: "The trouble with noroviruses -- which cause an estimated 21 million cases of gastroenteritis a year, some 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths -- is that they’re tough bugs that can live for prolonged periods on objects and surfaces." NBC called them “the perfect pathogens.”
Even if a person takes precaution in their home, when they come to the store they may pick up microorganisms from cart handles touched by others after sneezing, seats that infants and toddlers sit on with dirty diapers, or from the conveyer belt upon which meat and other products may leak. A study of grocery carts by Charles P. Gerba and Sheri Maxwell, Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona (USA Food Protection Trends, Vol. 32, No. 12, Pages 757-749) states: "A total of 85 shopping carts in parking lots of grocery stores were tested in five major metropolitan areas across the United States. The total numbers of heterotrophic bacteria were as great as 1.1 × 107 on the handle and seat. Coliforms were detected on 72% (62) of the carts. E. coli was identified on 18 of 35 carts (51%) on which coliform identification was conducted." Reusable bags pick up germs from these sources again and again with every trip to the store.
In the name of the environment, we may be sending more and more people to the already over burdened emergency room for life threatening attacks on their gastro-intestinal system. Senator Gabbard newsletter indicates local supermarkets, Safeway and Times, support the bill, but when their employees need to take sick leave and customers refuse to return after getting sick when grocery shopping, perhaps these stores will find that there is no savings and even increased cost as a result of the plastic/paper bag fee. The tax revenue could very well be exceeded by the expenses caused by additional hospitalizations.